About That So-Called “Smear Campaign”

Last week, at CNN.com, Koch lieutenant and recently installed Cato board member Kevin Gentry complained that, in its quest to maintain control over the Cato Institute, Cato’s management has launched a “scorched earth public relations fight.”

In that, he picked up on a talking point introduced by David Koch in his March 22 statement about the dispute. David Koch accuses Cato chairman Bob Levy and others of scheming to “elicit support” from leftist groups “that have been attacking Koch Industries, Charles, and me.” Koch accuses Levy of “helping organize a public smear campaign” against him and his brother.

But as Bob Levy pointed out in a rejoinder issued the same day, “it’s an unusual ‘smear campaign,’ accompanied as it is by regular expressions of praise and gratitude for the Kochs from Cato directors, management and employees.”

Here’s a quick review of what Cato policy staffers have said about the Kochs since they sued the Cato Institute on February 28:

David Boaz:

Let me note that we at Cato are immensely grateful for the support we received from Charles and David Koch up until a couple of years ago (about 4 percent of our budget in the past decade), and we admire their donations to many other libertarian causes as well. This dispute isn’t personal, we’re not trying to demonize the Kochs.

Michael Tanner:

I certainly have no personal animosity toward the Kochs. One cannot overstate their efforts over the years to make this country a better and freer place. And for those efforts, they have been horribly and unfairly maligned by much of the media.

Trevor Burrus:

I immensely respect the Kochs and what they have done for liberty. I have defended their political activity many times, and I will continue to do so in the future. They are true libertarians who have devoted incredible resources to the ideas they believe in. And those resources have made a difference, especially for me.

Jim Harper:

I believe the Kochs want what’s best for liberty. The Kochs’ work to advance liberty over many decades is very strong evidence that they want to see its advance continue. The statements put out in their names are creditable evidence of the same.

Jerry O’Driscoll:

Charles Koch supported Austrian and libertarian activities and even attended some of them. He was approachable and happy to discuss ideas and strategy. There is now a bureaucracy surrounding his philanthropy, so I’ve had no contact with him in decades. I have only gratitude for the support provided me in the past.

Michael Cannon:

… the Brothers Koch are magnificent people, about to make a very big mistake…

…and me:

I don’t just admire the Cato Institute—I’ve made my career there. And I’m not just grateful to Charles G. Koch—I owe that career to him…. I owe Charles Koch “an enormous debt of gratitude. And—whether he gets credit for it or not—the country owes him its thanks as well.”

Oh, the humanity!

Now sure, in the many blogposts and articles Catoites have written opposing the takeover, you can find the occasional harsh criticism, not least from Cato president Ed Crane himself. I won’t defend every single thing Catoites have said about the Kochs since they sued Cato, but the fact is, people tend to get their Irish up when they believe that an institution they know and love is under assault.

Still, “scorched earth”? “Public smear campaign”? I’d thought that Charles and David Koch had been through a lot worse. Can the Kochs, who’ve been involved in politics for three decades now, really be that sensitive to criticism?

Perhaps so. In his March 22 statement, David Koch makes clear that one of the gravest offenses committed by Cato’s management occurred when Ed Crane talked to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in 2010. Crane was “the individual quoted as the ‘top Cato official,” David complains:

When confronted about this, Ed initially claimed he only spoke briefly and favorably about us. He later acknowledged that he had made the statement as quoted, but it was only for background. Subsequently, he claimed that he was misquoted. As Ed has shown, he will partner with anyone – including those that oppose Cato and what it stands for – to further his personal agenda at the expense of others working to advance a free society.

Here’s the little quote that helped launch this great war:

… Crane had been insufficiently respectful of Charles’s management philosophy, which he distilled into a book called “The Science of Success,” and trademarked under the name Market-Based Management, or M.B.M. In the book, Charles recommends instilling a company’s corporate culture with the competitiveness of the marketplace. Koch describes M.B.M. as a “holistic system” containing “five dimensions: vision, virtue and talents, knowledge processes, decision rights and incentives.” A top Cato Institute official told me that Charles “thinks he’s a genius. He’s the emperor, and he’s convinced he’s wearing clothes.”

It’s a little shocking for those of us at Cato to learn that our careers and the Institute itself are at risk in large part because Ed Crane cracked wise about Market-Based Management in the pages of the New Yorker, but I suppose it’s useful information to have.

2 responses to “About That So-Called “Smear Campaign”

  1. Pingback: Koch v. [REDACTED] | Koch v. Cato

  2. Pingback: Another Salvo Launched in Cato’s Merciless “Scorched-Earth Campaign” | Koch v. Cato

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